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Jan 31 2012

Is Ron Paul Racist? What is Institutional Racism?

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Is Ron Paul Racist? And What is Institutional Racism?
By Ramy Osman
January 2012

 

 

Ron Paul has been a medical doctor since 1961 and a Texas congressman since 1976.  In both of his professions, no one has ever accused him of being racist or making racist comments. But lately, there have been accusations that Paul may be racist based on statements made in a number of newsletters published in the 1980’s and 90’s by his former company, Ron Paul and Associates (RP&A). The newsletters first started publishing in the late 70’s when Paul began his congressional career, and were published monthly for approximately 20 years. A team of editors and writers employed by RP&A wrote and published more than 240 newsletters with Ron Paul as an occasional contributor. Most of the newsletter articles were nameless, with the title of the newsletter only bearing Ron Paul’s name.

The newsletters in question, which have gained media attention, number less than a dozen, and were published during a 4-year period from 1988 to 1992.  1988 was the year Paul returned to political life after a small hiatus.  Paul has consistently disavowed the letters, stating he didn’t write them and that he himself has never used that type of language. He also said that he only occasionally saw the newsletters during that time and was unaware of the statements.  Paul has even expressed regret that it happened on his watch, saying that he feels “moral responsibility” for the words published in his name.  

This might seem like breaking news to people who first heard about it in December 2011 or January 2012, but this is the same accusation thrown at him during the 2008 presidential election.  It eventually went away in 2008 because he had low poll numbers, and then dropped out of the race midyear.  But support for his cause has grown dramatically since then, and his election numbers haveshown that he is a strong contender. His opponents have nothing new to confront him with, so they are resorting to the political tactic of a smear campaign. Their hopes are that people will form a negative opinion of Paul, which will cause them to dismiss or ignore what he has to say.

 Accusations of racism are usually leveled against all candidates at some time during their campaign.  No one is immune from it.  In 2008, Obama received similar accusations when statements of his pastor Jeremiah Wright were thrust into the national media. Obama’s reaction was to speak out against the statements and then to distance himself from the pastor and his church, which is like how Ron Paul has responded to the current allegations. Despite this, the accusations against Obama didn’t go away. It was irrelevant that Obama himself never made any racist comments. It was also irrelevant that he repudiated the comments.  The accusation stayed with him throughout the presidential race.  

 So what exactly is Ron Paul’s position on racism? In early January 2012 at the New Hampshire presidential debate , Paul was confronted about the racist statements that someone wrote in his newsletters. Given that he addressed the statements a number of times before, he decided to focus instead on racist policies that effect minorities. He said, “True racism in this country is in the judicial system… And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws. Look at the percentages. The percentages of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately. They get the death penalty way disproportionately.”

What followed was utter silence – the candidates who usually take any opportunity to retort or self-promote, had nothing to say. The audience was stunned and the quick-thinking moderator cut to commercial break. Ron Paul had said something that no other politician has said at that level of discourse. He disrupted a reality of a group of people who cannot fathom that their government is responsible for such a thing. No candidate in this election, even Obama, has the perspective and boldness to say such a thing.

The fact is, the US has the highest prison population in the world and the highest incarceration rate in the world. Not even China, which has four times the population of America, comes close to these numbers. Prior to 1980, the US prison population was less than 500,000. In 1980, new federal policies and a “war on drugs” increased the prison population to well over 2 million, even as the violent crime rate declined.  What makes these numbers even more alarming is that for a country where more than 70% of its population is white, minorities make up 60% of its prison population.  Furthermore, black people comprise 13% of the US population while accounting for 40% of the prison population. Relying on these statistics and assuming that blacks are more prone to drug use and crimes is far from the truth. The government-run National Institute of Health cites studies showing that whites actually have slightly higher rates of drug use than blacks, while other agencies show that blacks have only slightly higher crime rates than whites.

 These facts are well known by the Black and Latino communities who bear the brunt of these policies. But the idea of mass incarceration of minorities is apparently too disturbing for this to become a national issue. Human rights groups and research institutes have frequently studied and commented on these trends. Even a humanitarian group called the Innocence Project has taken action by appealing and litigating for DNA testing of inmates to attempt to free those wrongfully convicted.  They succeeded in freeing 289 inmates who were wrongfully convicted. 70% of those freed were minorities.  An apathetic American society has largely ignored these issues and has failed to find the courage to address them.

Paul’s position on this problem is to encourage development of a more humane approach when dealing with drug users. He suggests that, like alcoholics, drug users should not be treated like federal criminals if they haven’t committed any violent or real crime. Rather, they have an addiction disease that needs social and medical treatment. Studies have shown that imprisonment and solitary confinement have never proven successful in treating drug use. What they need is compassion and common sense. In 2008, Paul was the only Republican to co-sponsor a bill in congress which would allow rehabilitated drug convicts to qualify for receiving student loans.

Paul’s strategy is to give each state, autonomy in creating and enforcing their own drug laws, similar to how states have autonomy with alcohol laws. Some states may impose tougher drug laws, some may require more lenient laws, while others may stay the same. Regardless, residents will have the right to exercise their vote in deciding what’s best for their state.

The objective is to remove the federal government from participating in institutional racism and other injustices that have taken hold of the system. The federal government should not be creating and maintaining institutions that infringe and curtail the rights of certain groups of citizens. Rather, its role should be protecting the civil rights ensured by the constitution. By removing the federal government from the decision-making process relating to drug laws, each state will have its freedom in formulating its own crime and drug policies in a democratic way. State governments will be empowered in a way where they can work to avoid the unintended consequences of the federal “war on drugs”.  

On a personal level, Ron Paul morally opposes drugs and its destructiveness. But he strongly believes that the powers of the federal government should be restricted to only what was defined in the American constitution. The constitution is simply what binds the states together. The founding fathers purposefully limited its scope so that the states hold the real power in dealing with the everyday lives of people. There are no articles or amendments in the constitution that address drugs or a “war on drugs”. So naturally it’s the states that will decide what is best for their jurisdiction. If Ron Paul was a state politician he would most probably support drug laws. But as a federal politician, he is committed to ensuring that the federal government stays within the confines of the constitution, and that states are given back their freedoms.  This would guarantee that citizens have a voice stronger than the federal government when it comes to matters dealing with their daily lives.

Ron Paul is the only candidate who is willing to bring difficult issues to the forefront of a national discussion. He is the only one who is capable and principled enough to challenge the status quo. His candidacy is worth rallying around even if you disagree with some of his solutions. He is the only candidate willing to challenge a system that so many people are dissatisfied with. He is the only candidate interested in exploring different ways of dealing with the injustices prevalent in this country. He is the only one willing to discuss difficult topics that the “two-party” system has failed to solve or even address.

Accusation of being a racist will continue. And distortion of his message will also continue. They may get louder or softer, depending on how high or low Paul’s election numbers are. There are a lot of powerful people whose careers, prestige and money-making ability are threatened by the positions and voting stances that Ron Paul has consistently taken throughout the years. They will be attracted to and supportive of any negativity that is thrown at Ron Paul. It’s up to Paul’s supporters to know the facts when responding to these accusations, and to know how to focus on the real issues instead.

 

REFERENCES:

M4L page on Ron Paul: http://www.muslims4liberty.org/politics/muslims-for-ron-paul
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul#Newsletter_controversy

http://reason.com/archives/2008/01/16/who-wrote-ron-pauls-newsletter

http://www.fox19.com/story/16449477/reality-check-the-story-behind-the-ron-paul-newsletters

http://www.theroot.com/views/ron-paul-tackles-racism-issue?page=0,1&wpisrc=root_lightbox

http://www.examiner.com/independent-in-salt-lake-city/ron-paul-s-misunderstood-views-on-heroin-and-prostitution

http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/05-10_fac_crimeracejjpolicy_jj-ps-rd.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2377408/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

1 ping

  1. 2012 Muslim Vote for Ron Paul » M4L

    […] these positive points, there are Muslims who still view Ron Paul negatively. Some accuse him of being racist. But during presidential campaigns, all candidates are accused of racism at some time or another. […]

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